This new cycle, with a shared academic direction, brings a richness and diversity to the programme that fosters clearly positioned and complex thought, in the interest of addressing the difficulties running through contemporary antagonisms. The programme does not understand knowledge as based on the idea of an accumulation of facts, but rather as drawing on the power of collective study and bringing theory into action. In pursuit of that goal, it harnesses the tools and methodologies of critical theory, artistic research, cultural materialism, feminist and queer thought and practices, and decolonial critique. Three core lines of study (Critique and Thought, Cultural Ecologies and Technologies of the Body) are related and intersect with other lines of exploration such as pedagogies, visual narratives, undisciplined knowledge and writing as tools for activating the language, sharing experiences and articulating the research. The programme consists of class sessions, workshops and other formats that are open to the public, including international seminars, monographic courses and lectures.
Critique and Thought
One of the main goals of the PEI is to foster a critical capacity that allows for unrestrained movement between thought paradigms. We are not interested in ideological apriorisms or self-contained categories. The PEI is not a space for self-representation but for questioning existing representations. An antagonistic political imagination must be able to construct the fronts of its aesthetic and political struggle in a welcoming and creative way, without falling into the hostility and aggressiveness characteristic of global capitalism. Developing a critical stance, today, involves the patient task of listening, shared learning and reciprocity among languages. Along those lines, we propose the following seminars. Each will tackle a different challenge in current thinking, employing different working methodologies. The goal is to move beyond amassing knowledge of authors and content, in order to also develop different approaches to the exercise of thinking for oneself and in conjunction with others.
This block focuses on the need, today, to rethink the connections between imagination, culture and ecology. Where cultural studies aimed to lay out a response to the political crisis of the international communist movement at the dawn of the Cold War, today we need “cultural ecologies” that can provide us with new compasses and tools in a period that is even more pressing in its contemporary antagonisms. The historical caesura represented by the fall of the Berlin Wall led to the collapse of the short 20th century (as Eric Hobsbawm would say) and, with it, the communist utopia aligned with (or critical of) the October Revolution and the history of the Soviet Union, whose dystopian development sparked the arguments articulated by intellectuals of the new left like E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall. Today, what is on the verge of collapse is not a certain variant of modernity, as was the case with so-called real socialism, but rather the entire “civilization” that has spread across the planet for at least the past five centuries. The problem is that this entropy of civilization has the potential to sweep away not only the remnants of other pre-capitalist cultures or the weak equilibriums—where they have persisted—that sustain social market conditions, but much of the life that is encompassed in the Earth’s ecosystem: in fact, this is already happening. Beginning in the late 1950s, cultural studies posited culture as the anchor for a totalizing vision of social reality that questioned both the crude reductionism of the economicist analyses of orthodox Marxism and the restrictions of the disciplinary field of the humanities—still indebted to the influence of classical culture and the autonomy of artistic and literary expressions—with the intention of re-situating the analysis of the specificity of cultural practices within the broader network of their interrelations with the economics, politics and society of the time. Responding to a similar desire, today we need to engage in an ecological revision of the historical project of cultural criticism. The culturalist expansion of the study of the aspects that shape human societies should be extended to the analysis of the socio-metabolic sustainability of how we organise our life in common. This diagnosis can drive the emergence of a materialist imagination with an eco-social slant, providing a critical update to the tradition of the connections between art, aesthetics and politics outlined by the 20th-century avant-gardes.
This line also has a collective research group for those participants who are particularly interested in cultural ecologies, for the purpose of helping them engage in research focused on the dialogue between history, the imagination, culture and ecology.
Technologies of the Body
This line examines certain analytical tools that address the body, sexuality and the construction of gender in a context saturated by capitalism, colonialism and the mechanisms of biopolitical control. The area looks at feminisms, sexual dissidence and other theoretical-practical approaches that provide us with critical mechanisms for social, micropolitical and subjective analysis, as well as how these mechanisms can become instruments and materials for the production of discourse. An important focus will be the dissident nature of revised discourses, since they emerge as a force that runs counter to the hegemonic logics of capitalism and the heteronormativity, androcentrism, colonialism, racism and Eurocentrism of the modern discourse which underlies the construction of the contemporary European subject. These discourses challenge the systems of control laid out by modern social construction, investigating the practices of resistance that emerge through activism and cultural production.
This line also incorporates one of the programme’s collective research groups, dedicated to recovering the memories of sexual dissidence in Barcelona.
In addition to the main lines of study, the programme offers transversal seminars that address visual narratives, pedagogies and undisciplined knowledge. With the intention of challenging the disciplinary frameworks of the history of art or aesthetics, as well as those of the traditional practices of essay writing, art or curating, the programme addresses how the arrangement, intervention, multiplication, and mediatic socialization of images have a powerful influence on our everyday reality, shaping fictions and narratives, producing bodies and identities, and generating new forms of political subjectivity. Taking up clearly undisciplined positions, we address how artistic practices and the production of images activate not only imaginaries, but also ways of seeing, understanding and situating oneself in a world that is shaped by the scopic regime of the networked society. Through various seminars, workshops and one-on-one sessions, the epistemic-critical aspect of images is underscored, as well as their relationships with art, politics and power. The analysis of the temporality of images, in their capacity to redefine the connections between imagination and history, is a key element in understanding their centrality in the production of counter-hegemonic narratives and in the reconfiguration of the exhibition format as a narrative device and a tool for political intervention. Along the same lines, the programme revisits the pedagogical tradition that has its roots in a critique of the Enlightenment model of education and that delves into the possibilities of pedagogy as a political practice and a practice of liberation. In that sense, there is an emphasis on questioning the fixed categories in education, as well as the idea of learning as the accumulation of knowledge and the preparation of professionals within the framework of cognitive capitalism. The organization of knowledge is addressed as a political space that challenges the hierarchies of what can or cannot be learned.
Within this framework the AMOR ROJO (Red Love) research group envisions a future publication in reader format, led by the artist Dora García, for those participants who are particularly interested in writing and artistic practice.